On Sunday 31 March 2013, Equal Education (EE) submitted its written comment on the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) draft regulations on minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure, with assistance from the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC). The EELC contributed significantly to the content of the submission and provided the legal perspective of the document. The public comment period closed on Sunday, and the Minister will now consider all comments submitted to her before publishing the final regulation on or before 15 May 2013.
EE’s submission consists of two parts. The main submission is a thorough analysis of the Draft Norms and Standards, showing that they are neither legal nor appropriate [PDF]. In addition there is an Appendix based on over 500 submissions made by learners, parents and teachers from across South Africa [PDF].
EE’s submissions raise a number of concerns, including the fact that the draft does not contain figures relating to classroom sizes; the number of toilets required; the type of electricity and water supplies to be provided; nor clarity or specificity on numerous other essential aspects of school infrastructure. The draft does not provide provinces with clarity as to what is adequate; does not provide clear timeframes; and does not include mechanisms for accountability. The draft states that there will be an 18 month delay before the publication of a document which will provide technical details to the Norms and Standards in the form of non-binding ‘guidelines’. EE submission makes clear that these and other aspects of the draft fall short of the requirements of the Constitution, the South African Schools Act, the National Education Policy Act, and the settlement agreement reached between the Minister and EE.
EE’s submission points out that there is broad support within the state for binding and specific norms and standards. The submission contains extracts from official statements by the Auditor General, the Human Rights Commission, the Fiscal and Finance Commission, the National Development Plan, and legal judgments to this effect.
EE’s submission also draws upon the 2008 draft, published by the former Minister of Education Naledi Pandor, which was a far more serious document.
The Appendix to EE’s submission is an extremely powerful and vivid rendering of 532 submissions by learners, parents and teachers from across the country. It weaves together their personal descriptions of the crisis in school infrastructure, with their cogent comments on the draft itself. Many learners make incisive comment on the defects in the Minister’s draft. These testimonies were gathered during public hearings organised by EE in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng.
Although the publication of the 2013 draft regulations [PDF] was met with enthusiasm by members of EE, this soon became disappointment when we realised the extremely weak content of the document, particularly when compared to the 2008 draft, which contained greater detail, tangible goals and clear timeframes [PDF].
Nevertheless, the publication of the draft is a step forward. It means there is no longer debate on the need for a legal regulation that enshrines norms and standards in law. The only debate is over the content of the regulation.
EE’s campaign over the past three years, supported by litigation (in which EE was represented by the LRC), compelled the Minister to this point [PDF]. The actions of thousands of dedicated young people, parents and teachers assisted in highlighting the inequality that exists in our education system, in relation to access to facilities at South African schools. Young people play a critical role in this struggle for equality in education. Should the final version of the norms and standards, expected by 15 May, remain as inadequate as the draft, EE is poised to return to the streets and the court.
For comment please contact:
Yoliswa Dwane (EE Chairperson): 072 342 7747/ (021) 387 0022
Doron Isaacs (EE Deputy General-Secretary): 082 850 2111
Lisa Draga (EE Law Centre Attorney): 072 650 0214/ (021) 461 6582
Hopolang Selebalo (Parliamentary Officer): 074 261 1672